Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Daily Headlines: May 5, 2015

* South America: Chilean representatives requested the International Court of Justice to dismiss landlocked Bolivia’s long-standing claims of access to the Pacific Ocean.

* Mexico: The U.S. and Canadian embassies in Mexico issued travel warnings for tourists visiting a Jalisco state that has been the setting for a recent uptick in violent drug-related crime.

* Cuba: Alan Gross, the former contractor who spent over three years in a Cuban jail, will lobby for a new political action committee seeking stronger ties between the U.S. and the Caribbean nation.

* Brazil: Brazil will likely fall into a deeper recession and also raise interest rates according to financial analysts reporting to the Central Bank.

YouTube Source – teleSUR English

Online Sources – Bloomberg, CBC News, MercoPress, Voice of America

Monday, May 4, 2015

Daily Headlines: May 4, 2015

* Cuba: The “Buena Vista Social Club”, the critically acclaimed 1999 Oscar-nominated documentary on Cuban music, will have a sequel that has reportedly gone into production.

* South America: The Colombian Supreme Court requested an investigation of ex-president Alvaro Uribe over his suspected role in the wiretapping of political opponents, while Brazilian prosecutors opened a preliminary corruption probe against former leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

* Puerto Rico: Using medical marijuana in Puerto Rico is now legal following a “surprise” executive order signed by Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla yesterday.

* U.S.: Native Americans have protested in California are upset at Pope Francis for his push to canonize Junipero Serra, an 18th-century friar accused of “brutally converted indigenous people to Christianity.”

YouTube Source – MOVIECLIPS

Online Sources – Variety, Financial Times, The Guardian, Rolling Stone, Fox News Latino

Friday, May 1, 2015

Daily Headlines: May 1, 2015

* Cuba: “We will only advance toward the normalization of bilateral relations (with the U.S.) on a basis of respect for the sovereignty…which includes the lifting of the blockade,” declared the lone speaker at Cuba’s annual May Day parade today.

* Venezuela: Ex-Brazilian President Henrique Cardoso, former Mexican leader Felipe Calderon and 24 other heads of state signed an open letter to the Venezuelan government urging the release of imprisoned opposition activists.

* Nicaragua: Lawmakers in Nicaragua approved a proposal that would allow Russia to build satellite bases on the Central American country.

* Brazil: Police in Curitiba have clashed twice with teachers protesting a planned reform to the pension and retirement system of public employees.

YouTube Source – teleSUR (Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro joined Cuban leader Raul Castro and thousands of other attendees at the annual May Day parade in Havana on Friday.)

Online Sources – Bernama, Yahoo! News, BBC News, Fox News Latino

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Daily Headlines: April 30, 2015

* Puerto Rico: Puerto Rican legislators rejected a $2.9 billion tax plan that supporters claimed would have helped ease the commonwealth’s debt crises.

* Brazil: “No, I'm not going to be executed, I'm going to Brazil in a year's time,” was allegedly said by death row convict and possible schizophrenic Rodrigo Gularte shortly before he was killed by a firing squad in Indonesia on Tuesday.
* Argentina: Families of the 85 victims of the controversial AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires twenty-one years ago could soon receive a “one-time” financial compensation.

* Guatemala: An estimated 15,000 protesters recently called on the resignations of Guatemala’s president and vice president amid a growing corruption scandal potentially involving senior members of government.

YouTube Source – TIME (Video uploaded in March 2014).

Online Sources – Bloomberg, BBC News, The Guardian, The Latin Americanist, Global Voices Online

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Daily Headlines: April 29, 2015

* Mexico: A Pew Research Center study found that increased deportations from Mexico and declining homicide rates in Central America could be behind the reported drop in unaccompanied child migrants entering the U.S. since last October.

* Venezuela: Vice President Jorge Arreaza announced that the workday for Venezuelan public employees would be shortened as part of a nationwide electricity-rationing plan.

* Ecuador: Ecuador could soon become the latest Latin American country to recognize same-sex civil unions.

* Panama: New research suggests that the isthmus of Panama was first formed twenty million years ago, not between three and four million years as scientists generally believe.

YouTube Source – Vox (Video uploaded in July 2014).

Online Sources – UPI, BBC News, teleSUR English, Pew Research Center

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Indonesia Executes Convicted Brazilian National

Indonesian authorities today executed eight convicted drug smugglers including Rodrigo Gularte of Brazil despite an outcry from international governments and human rights groups.

The 42-year-old was shot by a firing squad at around midnight local time along with seven other convicts from Nigeria, Australia, Brazil and Indonesia. A Philippine woman was reportedly the only inmate spared from the execution that was scheduled last Saturday and confirmed by prison officials earlier today.

Gularte was one of three men detained in July 2004 at a Jakarta airport with approximately thirteen pounds of cocaine hidden inside of surfboards. He took the blame for the incident and was subsequently sentenced to death while his companions were let free.

Angelita Muxfeldt, Gularte’s cousin, believe that his mental state has been hammered by drug addiction and depression. She feels criminals exploited this and led him to commit what she called “his biggest mistake.”

Gularte was in a weakened state of health in the days leading to his execution while a last-minute appeal from Gularte’s lawyers was rebuffed. Attorneys argued in 2014 that their client suffered from schizophrenia and were hoping that his sentence would be commuted since its illegal to apply the depth penalty to prisoners with mental disorders in Indonesia. Meanwhile, an evaluation in March requested by Indonesia's prosecutor-general has purportedly not been released.

“The Brazilian is in a very deteriorated psychiatric state. He keeps affirming that it will not happen. At the same time he asks for the procedures to be sped up, that everything happens quickly,” said an anonymous Brazilian diplomatic official.

Daily Headlines: April 28, 2015

* Uruguay: Six former Guantanamo detainees could have their public assistance withdrawn as a result of a rift between them and the Uruguayan government.

* Peru: A recent report found that more than five million international tourists traveled to the Peruvian capital of Lima in 2014 and this made it the most visited Latin American city last year.

* Colombia: The alleged recruitment of underage girls for the fugitive leader of the Urabeños criminal organization has highlighted the “ongoing child sexual exploitation in Colombia's gang culture.”
* Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico’s debt woes continue to worsen, which increases the odds of a government default in a few months time.

YouTube Source – AFP

Online Sources – ABC News, Reuters, Peru this Week, Bloomberg

Monday, April 27, 2015

Daily Headlines: April 27, 2015

* Brazil: Petrobras reported a $16.8 billion write-down and an approximately $8 billion loss in 2014 that wiped out profit made by the state-run oil company in its previous four years.

* Argentina: Visiting Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner signed numerous agreements with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin as part of an “all encompassing strategic partnership” between both countries.

* Bolivia: Bolivia has reportedly become the country with the greatest number of dinosaur footprints with more than 10,000 of them found in the landlocked nation.

* Venezuela: Antonio Ledezma, the former Caracas mayor detained on charges of allegedly plotting a coup against President Nicolás Maduro, successfully underwent a hernia surgery yesterday.

YouTube Source – France 24 English

Online Sources – Fortune, Fox News Latino, MercoPress, Rappler

Friday, April 24, 2015

Sobredosis de TV: Home and Away

“Sobredosis de TV” is our occasional feature where we look at television shows regarding the Americas.
VICE was founded in 1994 as a culture and arts magazine in Canada, which would eventually turn into a media conglomerate that includes a film production company and a record label. But perhaps VICE is best known for producing hard-hitting and revealing documentaries on a myriad of subjects from secret North Korean labor camps to civil conflict in numerous countries. The newest episode of the “VICE on HBO” series that airs tonight at 11:00pm EST is no exception to this perception.

“Sweet Home Alabama” focuses on the aftermath of staunch anti-immigration laws passed in 2011 in the Cotton State. Under House Bill-56, undocumented immigrants are barred from receiving local government benefits, obligates public schools to provide yearly tallies of the number of undocumented migrant children and permits police with “reasonable suspicion” to inquire about a person’s legal status.

Unsurprisingly, HB-56 became a lightning rod in the fractious debate over immigration in the U.S. Critics of the measure included Alabama’s Latino populace, small town police chiefs without sufficient resources to enforce the must-arrest provisions and groups that successfully convinced the federal court to invalidate some provisions. Some initial supporters of the law such as legislators who voted for its approval even backtracked with one admitting, “If you make a mistake, you should be man enough to admit it.”

In the following brief clip from “Sweet Home Alabama,” two backers of HB-56 give their rationale for the controversial measure. One of them is the sheriff of Albertville, a community that apparently became a ghost town after Latino residents fled in the wake of HB-56. Check it out below the page break:

Daily Headlines: April 24, 2015

* El Salvador: Congress is considering declaring a “state of siege” for the first time since the civil war era while Salvadoran police proposed the return of “death squads” as an extreme measure to combat increased violence from street gangs.

* South America: Argentine team San Lorenzo was eliminated from the Copa Libertadores; thus, South America’s top soccer club tournament will not have a repeat champion for the thirteenth straight year.

* Bolivia: Lawmakers and farmers in Bolivia were unable to reach a compromise over the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

* Uruguay: Turbine manufacture Gamesa of Spain plans to supply fifty megawatts of equipment for a Uruguayan wind energy farm expected to start functioning in 2016.

YouTube Source – teleSUR English (Video published in January 2015.)

Online Sources – ESPN FC, The Latin Americanist, IPS, Bloomberg, teleSUR

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Daily Headlines: April 23, 2015

* Chile: Authorities evacuated more than 5000 people living near the Calbuco volcano that erupted twice after having been dormant since 1972.

* Puerto Rico: “The island's financial state is extremely uncertain,” was the grim warning issued by Puerto Rico’s Government Development Bank over a potential local government shutdown.

* U.S.: A defunct movie theater in Texas has sued the AMC megachain over alleged “conduct (that) was anticompetitive, unlawful, and harmful to Houston’s substantial Hispanic and Spanish-speaking community.”

* Argentina: Spanish coach Josep “Pep” Guardiola could be fined for wearing a shirt supporting a campaign for Jorge “El Topo” López, an Argentine journalist killed at last year’s World Cup in Brazil.

YouTube Source – Associated Press

Online Sources – ABC News, The A.V. Club, Al Jazeera, The Guardian

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Vatican Announces Papal Visit to Cuba

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi confirmed on Wednesday that Pope Francis would visit Cuba this September prior to a three-city tour of the U.S.

“I am able to confirm that the Holy Father Francis, having received and accepted the invitation from the civil authorities and bishops of Cuba, has decided to pay a visit to the island before his arrival in the United States for the trip announced some time ago,” affirmed Lombardi in a statement.

Lombardi’s remarks come after he claimed on April 17th that plans for a papal visit to Cuba were “still at too early a stage to be able to talk about a firm decision and an operational plan.”

The Argentine-born pontiff will thus become the third consecutive head of the Roman Catholic Church to visit the Caribbean country. Pope Benedict XVI called for greater religious liberties and prayed for dissidents “deprived of freedom” during his trip to Cuba three years ago.  The Cuban government granted greater recognition to Catholics following Pope John Paul II’s visit to the island in 1998. Years before becoming the Pope, the then-Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergolio, subsequently wrote a book describing the effects of that vital visit.

Pope Francis has been credited with being instrumental to the push between Cuban and U.S. leaders to normalize bilateral relations after decades of mistrust. Francis oversaw final talks between delegations from the U.S. and Cuba at the Vatican last October.  Following the historic announcements by Barack Obama and Raul Castro to improve ties last December, Francis sent them each letters urging them to “resolve humanitarian questions of common interest, including the situation of certain prisoners.”

Daily Headlines: April 22, 2015

* Argentina: The Argentine government on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against British and U.S. energy firms attempting to drill for oil near the disputed Falkland Islands.

* Venezuela: “Given the level of verbal irritation that I have seen from (Venezuelan President Nicolás) Maduro, I have decided to recall our ambassador to Caracas for consultation,” affirmed Spain’s foreign minister amid a growing diplomatic rift between both countries.

* Colombia: Michele Leonhart will resign as head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency amid allegations of counternarcotics agents engaging in “sex parties” with prostitutes in Colombia.

* Honduras: The Honduran government claimed that they foiled an alleged plot by Latin American drug gangs to assassinate President Juan Orlando Hernandez last September.

YouTube Source – CCTV News

Online Sources – Voice of America, MercoPress, The Huffington Post, The Guardian

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Today's Video: Noe Vasquez

We continue our videos highlighting violence against Latin American environmentalists with a quick look at Noe Vasquez.

The 30-year-old had campaigned against the construction of a hydroelectric dam in eastern Mexico that critics claimed would affect the water supply to local communities. On August 2, 2013 he was scheduled to speak at the start of a meeting of other Mexican environmental activists.  Yet he was murdered while trying to gather flowers for the beginning of the conference.  Investigators believed he was kidnapped by three assailants, had his limbs bound with rope and was stoned to death.

"His death leaves us with hunger for justice, but also strength because his death came as a shock to us," said Gabriela Sainz, a colleague of Vasquez.

"We are not at ease, we want to continue fighting for the cause he defended and to find out what really happened to him....We have to keep fighting", added Sainz days after Vazquez was killed.

Below the page break is a brief Spanish-language video showing an exhibition of artwork by Vazquez in his native Veracruz and held days after he passed away.

Daily Headlines: April 21, 2015

* Mexico: The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights called on the Mexican government to investigate supposed coercion against the families of the 43 missing Ayotzinapa students.

* Argentina: The prosecutor who took over for the late Alberto Nisman dismissed allegations claiming that Argentine officials helped protect suspected Iranian involvement in the 1994 AMIA bombing.

* Haiti: The U.S. State Department is none too pleased over a Haitian court dropping charges against a man accused in a kidnapping ring with close ties to the family of President Michel Martelly.

* Venezuela: The President of Venezuelan state-run oil company PDVSA claimed that they are exporting around 2.5 million barrels of crude each day.

YouTube Source – user AJ+

Online Sources –The Latin Americanist, Reuters, Latin American Herald Tribune, CNN

Monday, April 20, 2015

Today's Video: To MIne or Not to Mine?

Last month we examined the life and tragic murder of Costa Rican environmental activist Jairo Mora Sandoval.  In celebration of Earth Day this April 22nd, this week we'll look at other Latin American campaigners advocating for the environment who have died.

According to Global Witness, roughly three in four of the 114 environmental activists killed worldwide in 2014 were from Central and South America. Honduras was deemed as the most dangerous country per capita to be an environmental activist for the last five years with 101 deaths between 2010 and 2014. 

"They follow me. They threaten to kill me, to kidnap me, they threaten my family. That is what we face," said Berta Cáceres, a Honduran environmental advocate and winner of the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize.

Armando Fúnez, Maria Enriqueta Matute and Ricardo Soto were three leaders of the indigenous Tolupán community slain during a protest against a planned mining project and construction of a hydroelectric dam. They had reportedly received multiple death threats prior to the deadly attack against them in 2013.

As noted by Global Witness, the Tolupán continue to fight for their community and their future: 
We aren’t going to give up the struggle to keep our natural resources clean and in the hands of the community. There are those who want easy money by tearing up the land, contaminating the water. We have been here respecting the earth that gives us our food and we intend to stay here fighting for our right to feed ourselves.

Below the page break are two videos regarding the struggle over the San Martin gold mine operating in central Honduras.  (Not related to the project that the Tolupán are opposed to). The first video is from the operator of San Martin, Canada's Goldcorp, that claims the company works closely with the local community and operates the mine "in a very, very responsible manner." The second video purportedly contains residents living near the San Martin mine who accused the mine of contaminating the local water supply and bringing possible health risks to the community.